Intermodal Car Shipping

Intermodal Car Shipping: Here’s What you Should Know

For decades, intermodal shipping has had a hand in freight transport worldwide. However, it has become popular in recent years because of the significant advantages it can bring. Many businesses are transitioning to intermodal car shipping because of cost savings, improved security, flexible shipment, and increased safety. As a car owner, this mode of transport […]

For decades, intermodal shipping has had a hand in freight transport worldwide. However, it has become popular in recent years because of the significant advantages it can bring. Many businesses are transitioning to intermodal car shipping because of cost savings, improved security, flexible shipment, and increased safety.

As a car owner, this mode of transport may not be your first consideration while shipping your car to another state or country. But the continuous development of intermodal infrastructure and technological improvements makes it the best option for car shipping. This article explores intermodal car shipping and everything you need to know about this transportation mode.

Intermodal Car Shipping: An Introduction

The word inter refers to between, and the modal means method of transportation. Intermodal car shipping refers to using more than one transportation method to send a car to another state or country. 

A car shipping company may transfer the vehicle to a ship and from the ship to a train or truck while moving it from one place to another. Shippers often opt for intermodal car shipping to a destination within 200-300 miles from the entry port.

What is the use of intermodal car shipping?

When shipping a car overseas, you’ll need to either drive it to the port or yourself or hire an auto transport company to pick it up from your home. A truck will load the car and take it to the port, where your shipping company will offload and load it again on the carrier. 

The vessel will take the vehicle the rest of the way. As soon as the carrier reaches its destination, your shipping company will offload it. If you’ve hired inland transport services, your auto transport hauler will load your car on a truck and drop it off at your desired location. All the above processes come under intermodal transportation.

Intermodal Car Shipping Services

You can use many intermodal methods to ship your car to another state or overseas. Usually, car shipping companies offer container shipping for transporting your vehicle to another state or country and the RoRo method for shipping overseas. Here’s how you can utilize these methods:

RoRo shipping 

RoRo shipping works by driving a car on a ship’s deck bound for your destination. The vehicle needs to be operational to utilize this transportation method. Furthermore, your service provider will strap your car to the deck for a safe journey. 

As soon as the ship reaches the docks in the destination country, you can drive it off the deck. With RoRo, you can ship as many vehicles as you want.

Flatbed Rack

Although it is very rare to use intermodal shipping to send a car between states or another city, an exception can occur. The norm is to use the same carrier that picks up your car and uses it to transport the vehicle to your destination. 

However, due to unfortunate incidents, if the carrier breaks down, another vessel will replace it to continue the route. 

But in extremely congested areas like Boston or New York, your auto shipping company may have to use more than one intermodal transport. The auto hauler will have to transfer the vehicle from a truck to a flatbed carrier to drop it at your doorstep.

A flatbed rack can provide an ideal transport solution for heavy and oversized vehicles that are difficult to fit inside a container. It has only walls and support posts allowing the cars to load from the top or the sides. 

Once your service provider loads your cargo, they will secure it with a tarp. The provider may also tie the cargo down with the help of various securement posts on the flatbed.

Intermodal container shipping

Consider intermodal container shipping if you wish to send personal effects or household items alongside your car to another city or country. It provides additional security for your items by enclosing them in a metal box. Once your cargo is locked inside the container, it will remain untouched until it reaches its destination.

Your shipping company will offer choices in container sizes such as 20 and 40 ft. You can choose the size as per your needs. Although this method is more expensive than RoRo, it offers safe and secure transit for your car and goods. There are two more options in intermodal container shipping.


In Full Container Load shipping, you can use the entire container for shipping your items. You won’t have to share its space with any other shipper, but this is precisely what makes this shipping method quite expensive. However, as the container space is yours to utilize freely, FCL also offers peace of mind.


In Less than Container Load shipping, you’ll have to share the container space with other shippers. But this also makes this method cheaper than FCL. You won’t have to pay for renting the entire container as you’ll share the rent with other shippers. 

However, LCL has one drawback. You may receive your delivery late as the carrier will only begin its journey once the container fills.

Benefits of using intermodal car shipping

Intermodal transport has many benefits for shipping a car from one place to another. These advantages are:

Cost savings

Intermodal shipping makes for a cost-effective transport method for long distances. You don’t always have to rely on trucks, and especially ocean freight can cut significant costs from gas, routine service, and transport. You can also take advantage of predictable pricing and lower shipping rates. 

Reliable and flexible

One of the top reasons to use intermodal transport is reliability and security. This method eliminates the need to handle cargo, which reduces material damage and loss. 

Moreover, additional protection provided by ports, ramps, and loading/unloading machinery also increases the handling assurance of your freight. Intermodal shipping also offers the flexibility of warehousing, distribution, and logistics services to meet all your shipping needs. 

Efficient schedules

Compared to the past, transit schedules are now more than improved. One or two decades ago, it took two weeks to move cargo outside the USA, but now it takes only 7 to 8 days. The reason is that intermodal transportation has fewer distractions, delays, and shipping issues. With intermodal transport, you’ll have increased access to equipment and standardized shipment schedules. Besides, you’ll be able to streamline your reverse capacity and logistics.

Additional security

Intermodal car shipping guarantees protection for your vehicle. The reason is if a train is transporting your car, it will never stop to open the cargo compartment unless there is a need to open it. Even then, a secure intermodal ramp will be used to open the compartment. In addition, if your vehicle is inside a container, no one can access it.

Drawbacks of using intermodal car shipping

Like benefits, there are also certain drawbacks to intermodal transport for shipping a car to another place. These include:

Can become expensive

Although intermodal transportation is cost-efficient, in some cases, it can be costly. When there are too many modes of transport involved, it can become more expensive than other shipping options. 

Therefore, you’ll need to consult your car shipping company about which shipping methods will work best for moving your vehicle to your desired location.

Chances of delay

Intermodal shipping usually reduces transportation delays. But due to multiple transport modes, your cargo may take more time to reach its destination.

How can AFL help in intermodal car shipping?

By teaming up with an auto shipping company, your experience of intermodal transport can become easier, especially when it comes to negotiating shipping rates. As an international car shipping company AFL is fully licensed and insured to move your cargo securely across the USA or outside the country. 

If you feel anxious about shipping your cargo, trust us to provide you with state-of-the-art shipping technology and real-time tracking. We’ll work with you to choose the best available shipping solution based on your cargo and shipping circumstances. 

AFL can support intermodal car shipping by ensuring timely deliveries, higher quality shipping standards, and a leaner planning process. The services we offer include the following:

NVOCC License Holder

We proudly state that our company holds an NVOCC license from the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC). It allows us to offer customized but efficient shipping solutions and competitive market rates. 

We can book a large quantity of space on the best carriers, eliminate needless shipping delays, and get your shipment cleared faster at customs.

Processing Services

Leave all the documentation and customs processes for us. Our professionals can expertly guide you to fill out the necessary forms and submit them at the customs of both the origin and destination country. 

We will also help you clear your cargo between states so you won’t have to worry about exceeding the allowed cargo weight and measurement. Our experts can suggest proper corrections if there is an issue with the documentation to eliminate customs clearance delays.

Door-to-Door Services

Our intermodal transportation solution includes door-to-door services. It possesses an entire fleet of trucks and can provide affordable inland transportation. With the help of our logistics partner, we can pick up your vehicle from your doorstep and deliver it to your destination. 

Our carrier can pick up your car from your home and drop it at the port for international shipping. Further on, we’ll load it on the ship and deliver it to your destination country. 

If you require, we can also provide inland transport in the destination country. Our logistics service providers can pick up your car from the port and deliver it to your desired place.


Intermodal car shipping is the best choice when transporting a vehicle overseas. It can save costs for fuel, transportation, and routine service. Moreover, it is a reliable method that provides additional security and flexible schedules. 

In short, intermodal car shipping improves efficiency in the supply chains. Due to its many advantages, it ensures to meet your shipping needs. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How can you prepare a vehicle before shipping?

Before shipping a car with intermodal transport, you must prepare it to eliminate the chances of any damage. Give your vehicle a spring clean, check it for any dents or scratches, and service the engine. Also, empty the fuel tank until only 1/4th of the gas is left.

How much does intermodal transport cost?

Intermodal shipping costs vary based on the number of modes involved. You’ll also have to take into account other factors such as the type of shipment method, peak season, fuel costs, and weight and size of your vehicle. 

What is the purpose of intermodal transportation?

The primary goal of intermodal transport is to achieve an efficient shipping system and reduce shipment costs and delays. It involves two or more modes of shipping so the cargo can move seamlessly between cargo ships, trucks, and trains. Intermodal transportation has two types: domestic and international.

Why is intermodal car shipping popular?

An increase in the difficulties of freight shipping, like road congestion and environmental challenges, is pushing shippers to adopt intermodal transportation. Growing concerns like traffic safety and the recognition of the importance of speed in the supply chain are also behind the popularity of intermodal car shipping.


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